The literal meaning of the word pranayama as suggested by Patanjali is –
cessation of breath i.e. ‘Prana’ + ‘Yama’. It can also be called as the
modification of inhales and exhales of the breathing. In simple language, we call
it breathing exercises.
Different schools of yoga suggest different times to do pranayama. Some says
that it’s better before doing your regular yogic practice of asanas to open up the
channels of the body for a more effective practice while the others say that
pranayama should be done after the yoga asana practice so as to calm and
rejuvenate the mind. In any case, we will recommend you to do pranayama
according to your requirements.
Pranayama is very effective in improving the physical and mental health of
human beings. Along with it, it also helps in spiritual growth. First, let’s talk
about the aspect of physical health – There are about 72000 channels in the
body and by doing pranayama, a person can regulate a good flow of energy in
them. It also makes sure that the flow of oxygen to heart and brain is maintained
in the right proportions. It cures the diseases like common cold (phlegm), tonsils
etc. Overall, for a good physical health it is advisable to continue the practice of
pranayama along with the yoga postures.
For mental health, pranayama is
equally important. When the oxygen gets to the brain, it helps to relieve the
muscles in the brain and the body which helps to prevent stress and anxiety
symptoms. Along with it, mild pranayama helps to cure depression. Before
going for a vigorous pranayama practice, you should always consult your yoga teacher.
It is said that no spiritual progress can be made without the pranayama. Many
people find it difficult to agree that how can physical exercise lead to the
spiritual growth (most of them who would rather make it a point to believe
scientific researches). However, there are many Yogic experts who have made a
point to justify the spiritual values of Pranayama.
The first stage of spiritual progress is, of course, the purification of the body and that
happens through pranayama and yoga. The second stage is mental clutter
clearance. Pranayama makes the mind fresh, improves concentration and clears
the clutter from mind. Third stage comes after the first two stages and in this
stage purification of the soul takes place. Continuous use of pranayama balances
the flow of life forces in our body. It clears the Ida Nadi and Pingala Nadi which
run alongside the Sushumna Nadi or say the backbone.
Once these two nadi are balanced, it helps to awaken the sushumna nadi which leads to kundalini rising.
It is the ultimate spiritual growth. While the sushumna is rising, it passes through
the energy vortexes in the body called chakras. There are seven chakras in the
body namely as follows:
1. Muladhara Chakra: This Chakra is also called as Root Chakra. It relates to a
being with the ground. The qualities associated with this chakra are to
balance emotional and financial securities.
2. Swadhistana Chakra – This chakra is called as the Sacral Chakra. It
represents our relationship with other people in the physical world. The
second chakra is located below the belly button.
3. Manipura Chakra – This chakra is also called the Solar Plexus Chakra.
The element of this chakra is fire. This Chakra is related to the power of
4. Anahata Chakra – This chakra is also called as Heart Chakra. It includes
the love for us and the love for others.
5. Vishuddha Chakra- This chakra is also known as the Throat Chakra. This
chakra is related to the words we choose to speak, the truth and clarity of
6. Ajna Chakra – This is also called as the Third Eye Chakra. This chakra
when activated opens you up to the senses beyond our 5 senses. It also
strengthens the intuitions.
7. Sahaswara Chakra- This chakra is known as the Crown Chakra. It is said
that our consciousness is located in this chakra.
So, all of these chakras are awakened when the sushumna nadi rises through
them. It is said that the individual power of every chakra is awakened when the
sushumna nadi passes through them and when it reaches the crown chakra, it leads to enlightenment.